An article in the Silicon Valley Business Journal last week cited Facebook as still the No. 1 used Social Media, but with stagnant growth. The same article mentioned the expedited adoption of the start-up messaging app, Kik. Being mentioned in conjunction with the some of the most downloaded and used social apps is enough to force you pay attention to Kik, but if you need more, consider it’s 240 million users between the age of 13-24 and the 9 million of those users who have voluntarily opted in to chat with brands.
What’s Kik? : At first download, it doesn’t look that different from other messaging apps such as Viber or Facebook Messenger. But after I started “chatting” a bit it started to remind me of AOL messenger and chatting with automated bots in the fifth grade. It’s organization structure is set up in such a way that you can chat with:
- Your Friends: Like when you create a new account on any mobile app, Kik scans your phone and finds friends on Kik. As I am just out of that 18-24 range, I only had one friend who seemed to be already active on the app. Like Viber, friends seem to use Kik to text internationally and my friend who was on it said: “The notification noise is super satisfying.” (Hey, it never hurts to have a nice interface and few homey add ons).
- Topical Groups: Since I had no friends to chat with, but still wanted to get a clearer picture of how the app is being used, I did some searching for who else I could chat with. It seems in clumps of up to 50 or more, you can chat with complete strangers or anyone who is interested in a certain topic. I posted in the “Hobbits” group to see what would happen. There was immediate response from other users but I wouldn’t qualify the conversations as very valuable. Like the chatrooms of the early 90’s, most of the responses were unrelated and all over the place.
- Brands (Partners): Perhaps the reason that Kik is appealing is it’s brand value proposition. If the app is already being heavily utilized to chat with friends, why not open up the opportunity to brands as well? KIk’s website claims that 190 million messages have been exchanged with promoted chat accounts. In a way, this is a step up from a Twitter or Facebook exchange with a brand as it feels more personal and your question isn’t out there for the world to see. BUT it doesn’t seem like there are any actual humans on the other side of the conversation. Some of the biggest brands utilizing the app include MTV, Buzzfeed, WWF & Reddit. Their branded micro sites within the Kik app seem pretty cool. Just another place to share their content and as always, meeting users and potential customers where they already are. I started to have some conversations with these brands and wasn’t exactly thrilled with what I found.
Some Branded Conversations:
It certainly felt like chatting with a bot on AOL all of those years ago. Or maybe Siri, who is programmed to say what you want to hear. The best conversation I had was with WWF, who utilized the computer back and forth to ask trivia questions and further their cause: (and link to their landing page)
Chatting with Buzzfeed was fun too. For someone who already loves Buzzfeed’s content and can often spend a significant amount of time scrolling through the site before deciding what to read, Kik can serve as a content guide, suggesting articles and making it a more interactive reading experience.
The conversation with MTV, though seemed very one-sided. When I began chatting with them, it was clear the goal for them was to promote the VMA’s. They had an awesome micro-hub set up on Kik with all of the VMA content, which again I think highlights the potential for Kik as a distribution platform. But not so much for a conversation:
The conversation couldn’t answer the most logical question someone chatting might have: When are the VMA’s?
Let’s talk about that $50 million in funding: Whether your conversation with a brand was rewarding or not, people are using Kik. Tech Crunch reported last week that the app had raised $50 million from the biggest internet company in China with the goal of becoming the “WeChat of the West. Read more on that here.
So, should I as a brand care about Kik?
Looking at the evaluation and adoption rate of the app as well as the number of competitors, messaging apps don’t seem to be going anywhere. Along with more Video Sharing platforms, they might just be the two fastest growing areas in Social Media in 2016. On one hand the personal chance to chat with a customer is immensely valuable, but as with the MTV example, the system may need ironed out. (Unless you are using strictly as distribution). And like any social network, it’s only as valuable as the network itself, if it continues to grow and if your target market is using it.
Any avid Kik users out there? Is it how you chat with Friends in far away lands or would you like to have the chance to click to buy and converse with brands?